No one is more inspired by the achievements of Apollo than Moon Express. We highly respect efforts to protect world heritage sites on and off planet Earth, and we have undertaken to do so as a fundamental premise of our lunar exploration plans.
Our commercial lunar mission approval obtained from the U.S. government is the first of its kind in the world. Our mission authorization is necessarily compliant with obligations under the Outer Space Treaty and includes covenants of non-interference with domestic or international operations or artifacts on the Moon and involves no lunar heritage sites.
(As a point of information, our commercial lunar mission proposal submitted to and approved by the USG in 2016 did not reference the Google Lunar XPRIZE at all. So we caution singling out the “Google Lunar XPRIZE” as the premise for concern. At least in the case of Moon Express, while agreeing with the positive sentiments expressed about the Google Lunar XPRIZE, the competition is not a foundation for our company nor a driver of our plans.)
It is our view that the OST, signed by over 100 nations, is a visionary document effectively guiding the behavior of government and non-government players. It is not our view or experience that “there is nothing to stop anything or anyone from running over humankind’s first footprints on the Moon”. The provisions of the OST forbid governments to authorize activity in space that are contrary to its principles. Those provisions include transparency and processes to avoid harmful interference while operating with due regard to the corresponding interests of other parties. We do not believe the U.S. government would have authorized our mission had we not provided covenants to respect the non-interference and other important provisions of the OST.
(Also, not to undermine the point of concern, but a practical note that “humankind’s first footprints on the Moon” were already trampled over by the same humans who made them… and that iconic photo everyone *thinks* is the first footprint on the Moon actually isn’t… it’s not even Neil’s — it is one of Buzz’s bootprints — but the metaphor of concern is valid).
In the expressed noble concern to protect Apollo heritage sites on the Moon, we are unsure why the emerging capability of private players for lunar exploration is cited over the existing or emerging ability of governments to undertake lunar activity, In our view the need for respect of Apollo and other off-Earth heritage sites is universal, regardless of whether the player is government or private.
We hope that a ‘global grassroots marketing campaign designed to raise awareness and ignite public support’ begins with well researched facts and valid assumptions to provide balanced information on this important subject. We also suggest that the focus on Apollo heritage sites could be helpful as a premise for understanding a subject that will soon extend beyond the Moon as more nations and private players develop capabilities to reach Mars and other solar system destinations.
We hope this is helpful input to your efforts to carry forward this important conversation.